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China passes stringent new cybersecurity law

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In an event that is certain to have far reaching consequences, China has decided to pass a new cybersecurity regulation that will further complicate things for technology companies operating in the company. The country has always been known for its rather tough stance against foreign companies, and these new measures are no different.

China has passed a new set of regulations with the aim of curbing what little flexibility remained to tech companies operating in different niches. A new Cyber Security Law has been passed by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, which is the country’s top legislature. The new law will give the government sweeping powers and will force the companies to comply with what some will undoubtedly call “prying” on the Chinese government’s part.

China’s plans to hammer the web into shape:

Here are some of the more salient points of the Cyber Security Law:

  • Instant messaging services and other Internet companies would be required to register their users with their real names and personal information.
  • IM and other Internet companies would also be required to assist the government in censoring content that is prohibited in China.
  • The new laws will also require companies to store their data within the Chinese border. Known as data localization, this has been a sore point of contention between many a government and large tech companies. However, the new law will likely give those operating in China a choice between compilation or prosecution.
  • Under this law, companies will be required to report network security incidents to the Chinese government and also inform their consumers of any breaches that happen to occur.
  • Tech companies operating within China will be required to assist the government and any agencies affiliated to it, during the course of investigations being undertaken by them.

The reasoning is pretty obvious. Using real names will lead to a restriction on anonymity. This is particularly true for China, where a large number of people take to the web to express their real thoughts — in case they are against the Chinese government’s policies — thanks to what many call the repressive nature of the regime.

Meanwhile, the new changes are likely to make the regime appear as even more oppressive. While the government has always had a low toleration point for those speaking their minds or expressing their opinions — particularly when those views or opinions are at a variance from the regime — many had continued to do so by using pseudo-names on the social platforms still allowed in the country. The new law aims to take away the luxury of anonymity as well.

And what about the technical assistance mentioned in the law? I am assuming that it doesn’t refer to help with a Windows 10 installation. While we will know for certain later, my guesses range between providing back-doors/loopholes, or even special surveillance methods for the government.

Speaking on the topic, James Zimmerman, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China said,

This is a step backwards for innovation in China that won’t do much to improve security. The Chinese government is right in wanting to ensure the security of digital systems and information here, but this law doesn’t achieve that. What it does do is create barriers to trade and innovation.

Meanwhile, Zhao Zeliang, director-general of the bureau of cybersecurity for the Cyberspace Administration of China, believes that the law is pretty fair.

The law fits international trade protocol and its purpose is to safeguard national security. China’s cybersecurity requirements are not being used as a trade barrier.

One thing is certain though, tech companies are going to find life getting significantly more difficult. While we will have to wait for companies to speak their minds (if they ever do, no business would like to piss off the government of the world’s second largest economy) — we can already guess at what their statements will be like.

In summer, as many as 40 different business groups from the U.S., Europe and Japan had drafted a letter to Premier Li Keqiang, with the aim of expressing their concern on the matter. The letter appears to have gone largely heedless though.

The laws are expected to be enforced from June, next year.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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